Chichester’s juniors had their first taste of what the winter has in store when they did battle with some of the best athletes in the country in the South of England road relay championships at Aldershot.
All the major teams in the south were out in force aiming to put down a marker for the season. There was a welcome back to racing for Olympic hopeful Steff Twell, sidelined after breaking her ankle in February in a cross-country race in Belgium.
The most successful of Chichester’s teams on Saturday were the under-15 boys, who lived up to pre-race expectations by finishing tenth, 45 seconds behind the bronze medal winners. Harry Leleu took on the first leg of 3,000m and didn’t disappoint, handing over in eighth place with a 9min 48sec clocking which was 15th fastest of the day among athletes from as far afield as Norwich and Cornwall.
Dan Eeles, Josh James and George Dempster kept up the momentum by recording times within eight seconds of each other to give Chichester their highest finish in the age group. Reserves Ed Gerwat and Harry Pink ran well for the B team.
The girls’ under-15s were impressive in their consistency by having two teams finishing in the top half of the field.
The A team of Tara Bage, Hannah Croad and Charlotte Reading were 25th with fast-finishing Reading making up seven places on the final lap with a sub 12-minute clocking, Chichester’s fastest of the day.
The B team were a minute behind with good efforts from Emma Maynard, Holly Beaton and Rose Ellis, while Nicola Mead and Lucy Ellis ran well as reserves. Both under-13 teams exceeded expectations with the boys squeezing into the top 20 thanks to fine runs from Zac Hurst, Josh Eeles, Brodie Keates and Sam Pink, with Adam Croad and Sam Reading reserves.
The girls had a great start with Saskia Gardham finishing her 2,300m leg 11th out of 80 in 8min 42sec, the 16th fastest out of more than 200 athletes. Caitlin Paul and Molly Whatmore kept up the pace to bring the team home 21st.
Such was the closeness of the competition, a top-ten finish was less than a minute in front after nearly 30 minutes.
With all nine athletes in the under-13s having their first taste of this prestigious event, their ability to cope at a high level augurs well.
Team-wise, the only disappointments of the day were in the under-17s where the club did not field complete teams.
However Ollie Pickersgill, Callum Adams and Greg Smith all gained good experience over their longer 3,850m circuit with Adams the fastest at 14min 2sec with the other two within a minute of his time.
With the whole squad available for Saturday’s Sussex cross country relay championships at Goodwood, the club hope to achieve their best-ever medal haul.